Lessons in Ethical Angling

Tuesday morning, I took this summer’s last group of Jr. Marine Biologist camp students to the Juno Beach Pier to learn responsible fishing practices and try their luck with their own rod and reel.

Meg taught the students casting techniques, knot tying, bait cutting, and the different types of fishing rods, lures, and hooks. After a brief lesson on sea turtle rescue (just in case), the students were set free on the pier, each with perfectly baited hooks.

The most important message of the day was conservation. “There is no such thing as a ‘trash fish,’” Meg told the students. Some anglers will catch a fish they do not want, for bait or for dinner, and they will lay it on the deck. “Each fish has an important role in the ecosystem. If you catch a fish that you do not want, or is out of season, we will remove the hook as quickly as possible and safely release that fish back into the water,” she told them.

Meg demonstrated de-hooking procedures and how to release your catch with a pier net or a sling – the safest ways to release fish from the top of the pier. Using these methods, the fish are lowered down to the surface slowly and water is allowed to pass over their gills so they can swim away healthy fish.

While we were fishing, one of the pier’s regular visitors came over to help a few of the campers with their casting and share some of her bait fish. The students were thrilled to have such expert advice. “The regulars we have here know the weather, they can tell by the wind if it’s going to be a good day. They watch the tides and the storms, they know the seasons, and they know this pier,” Meg told us. “If you want to know anything about fishing, just come on the pier and stand next to this guy right here,” she said, pointing to a friend and local fisherman who is on the pier every day.

The campers left the pier with new skills and knowledge. We saw a few snook swimming through schools of bait, watched the cormorants fishing in the waves, and even spotted a bottlenose dolphin foraging on the north side of the pier. We are looking forward to instructing many more ethical anglers in the months to come.

If you know of a student, age 8 – 12, who would be interested in a kids’ responsible fishing program at the Juno Beach Pier, please contact Demi at 561-627-8280 ext. 107 or dfox@marinelife.org.

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